Since its inception in 1951, Swedish practice White Arkitekter has taken an active approach to research and development. Its research strategy was updated in 2020, with the formal establishment of an overall theme of ‘Informed Design’ delivered through two distinct streams: circular architecture and healthy living environments.
The Selma Lagerlöf Centre in Göteborg, completed in 2019, is one of a series of projects with material reuse and the circular economy at their core that White has delivered over more than a decade. The list includes two commercial refurbishment projects, completed in the last couple of years, Avinode Group’s offices in Gamlestaden, Gothenburg and Corem’s (formerly known as Klövern) site in Kista near Stockholm, which both achieved material reuse of over 90%.
The Selma Lagerlöf Centre and the square that it fronts, take their name from Swedish author Selma Ottilia Lovisa Lagerlöf, the first female writer to win the Nobel Prize for Literature, in 1909. The building is in Backa, a residential district a few kilometres north of the city centre, that was part of the Million Programme, which saw one million apartments constructed in the decade to 1975. The cultural centre forms the focus for redevelopment initiatives for what has become a challenging area, and was viewed as an investment in the community. Cultural and social services have been consolidated on one site along with facilities for youth groups and the elderly, flexible spaces to accommodate a range of activities, art studios, a cafe and a library.
The client, Göteborg City Council, wanted a multi- and inter-generational meeting and community space that reflected the diverse suburb, with a reuse element that supported its sustainability agenda. White pushed the client to be more progressive, setting a target for material reuse as close to 100% as possible. While both parties acknowledged that the project would not necessarily achieve that, the experimental nature of the agreement allowed for a flexible and creative response from the architects and their team.